Don’t ask me why, but there is something about a road trip with friends that makes you throw reality to the winds. Frances Palmer and I set off for Cape Charles, Virginia, to meet Jamie Gould and Dale Goffigon at her cousin’s house. Frances’ husband Wally was too busy getting his new company started; he’s designing shirts and producing them right near me, in Fall River, Massachusetts: http://www.davidwood.com/blog/ But running a company doesn’t stop Frances--http://www.francespalmerpottery.com/. Nothing ever stops her; she is always good to go. Everyone needs these supercharged energy force fields in their lives; when I was in the depths of sorrow she nudged me into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a Bonnard show that made me remember what sunshine looked like. Now, posting blog entries means that everything is potential material. Sort of like editing a magazine, come to think of it.
I’ll write later about Monticello, the ultimate geek bachelor pad, which we visited because of Maira Kalman’s witty series in the New York Times. We stayed with Tom Goffigon, a talented and interesting architect from Hollywood, whose understated, elegant modern beach house is a model of restraint and beauty responding to a delicate landscape. He had his teenage son with him (so I felt right at home) and various other cousins dropped by. We had big, noisy dinner parties every night. Dale is a terrific cook, who makes frying oysters and crab cakes look easy. (Fresh oysters from brother-in-law Jack, dredged in cornmeal and fried in hot canola oil. Crabmeat mixed with finely chopped scallions, mayonnaise, pepper, and crushed saltines, also fried in hot oil. Easy, right? So why do mine fall apart?)
And Frances baked cakes. She is a cake wizard; I think she designed the cake stands (in the picture) only because she needed an excuse to make more cakes. Recipes below, and over time, I’ll give you what I think of as my Circle of Friends cookbook--those favorite recipes that friends pass on to one another.
I rarely eat dessert. In this, I try to follow the strict code of my beloved doctor for all things, Patricia Allen. She put me on a huge diet a year or so ago (I wrote about it in my book--after I lost my job, I couldn’t stop eating….) and the diet, with all that V-8 juice and cottage cheese, nearly did me in, but it definitely worked. (The diet story, which is also tied up with a cancer story--with a happy ending, because Dr. Pat saved my life--will be excerpted from my new book SLOW LOVE in the June issue of Good Housekeeping, out soon.)
Anyway, the cakes. We drove down with the first one in the back seat of the car, and Frances seemed to feel about it the way one might feel about a chihuahua, or a sick child. She kept asking me to check if the cake was doing okay. There is something very gracious about arriving at a house party bearing a cake, I must say, even if you are simply trailing behind the person who is bearing it.
At the end of our first dinner, I took a forkful of a chocolate cake that had coffee in the icing, and nearly fainted with joy. I had a tremor of guilt, too, and I realized Dr. Pat would be horrified, but I shooed that away. I was on a trip, after all, and I thought it might be hard for those calories to catch up with me in a different neighborhood. The second night Frances made a moist, delicate almond cake, and I happily, peacefully ate my slice. I didn’t even drag my fork, pretending I was going to leave some on my plate. The third night she promised Tom Goffigon a coconut cake, so she left behind a recipe, which Dale baked while we checked out Thos. Jefferson’s kitchen. Needless to say, I scarfed up every bite of that third slice of cake too.
And on the third night I suddenly realized that I could not remember the last time I had cake every night for three nights in a row. Definitely not when I was a child. I was struck by how wonderful it is to simply give in to a guilty pleasure--hey! Forget the guilt! What is it they say? She wants to have her cake and eat it too. That would be me, three nights running. Yes, I see cottage cheese in my future. But for now, I’m glad to have had the childlike pleasure of indulging a sweet tooth in the lively company of friends.
Lee Bailey’s Devil’s Food Cake adapted
2.5 cups sifted cake flour
3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
12 tab. Butter
2 ¼ cups brown sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled
1 1/8 cup hot coffee (not instant)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9” cake pans.
Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Cream butter and brown sugar until smooth and stir in vanilla.
Add eggs one at a time, beating 2 minutes after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate and gradually stir in hot coffee.
Add flour mixture one third at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour batter into pans and bake for 25 minutes.
Chocolate buttercream icing:
3 sticks unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
9 ounces semisweet chocolate melted and cooled
1 tablespoon powdered instant espresso
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups sifted confectioners sugar
From Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup salted butter
1 cup canned cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
5 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare 2 9” layer cake pans or 3 8” cake pans.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Beat sugar and butter till light.
Add cream of coconut, egg yolks one at a time and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and mix till just combined.
Whip egg whites till stiff and fold into batter.
Bake 40 – 45 minutes.
Cream cheese frosting:
1 stick unsalted butter
8 oz. Package cream cheese
3 c. confectioners sugar
1 T. lemon juice or coconut flavoring
Place between layers with a heavy sprinkling of coconut flakes.
7-8 oz. almond paste (Odense)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour thoroughly an eight inch round cake pan.
Break up the almond paste and put into a Cuisinart with the sugar. Pulse the machine a few times until everything is granular. Add butter and cream ingredients together. Add beaten eggs, almond extract and Gran Marnier. Mix. Fold in 1/4 cup flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Cook for 35-40 minutes. The cake will be quite soft and dense.
Lemon Drop Cake recipe from the cookbook BAKED by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafato This is the recipe for the picture at the top, but it is so terrifyingly complicated that I leave it to the experts. Please note that the subhead for this book is New Frontiers in Baking, which ought to be warning enough. The cake, however, is extremely worth someone else's trouble.